Seattle Now & Then: Margaret Denny’s First Hill Home

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Margaret and Mary Ann Denny home spent its waning years, first in 1925 as The Chateau with rentable “accommodations for particular people in the most beautiful residence on First Hill,” followed in 1926-27 as The Hospitality Club, advertised as “for young business girls and students.”
NOW: Architect Earl W. Morrison’s Marlborough House assumed the corner in 1928. In an advertisement from January 24, the hotel’s management was already confident that “To live at Marlborough House is a mark of social distinction.” They were right.

While I do not know the exact date for this portrait of Margaret Denny’s First Hill home, it can be compared to another and similar photograph that appeared in the “Real Estate and Business News” section of The Seattle Times for July 1, 1901.  The newspaper’s caption reads, in part, “The accompanying halftone is a representation of the new Denny Home … one of the most sightly spots in the city.” I think in this instance “sightly” means both “good to look at” and “good to see from.” Understandably, the latter connotation was used repeatedly for promoting the Marlborough House Apartments, seen in Jean Sherrard’s repeat, which succeeded the Denny home in 1928.  From the Marlborough’s ten stories one could take in panoramas of both the Cascade and Olympic Mountains and the continued proliferation of other First Hill apartments as they more often than not replaced single-family homes, some of them near-mansions similar to the Denny Home.

A clip from The Times for July 7, 1901

The Times’ caption for its 1901 halftone continues, “The building was erected according to designs prepared by architects Charles Herbert Bebb and Louis Leonard Mendel … It is of brick and is of the Elizabethan Gothic style of architecture.” In their essay on Bebb and Mendel in “Shaping Seattle Architecture,” a UW Press book, architectural historians David A. Rash and Dennis A. Andersen credit Bebb and Mendel with building “the most prominent architectural practice in Seattle during the first decade and a half of the 20th Century.”  First Hill was increasingly dappled with their creations. In the spring of 1900 The Times credited Bebb with drawing Margaret Denny’s new home, adding that it was “perhaps the handsomest dwelling commenced this year.”

The footprint for Margaret Lenora Denny’s home appears near the center of this detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map. It sits on lots 1 and 4 of block 116 of her parents, Arthur and Mary Denny’s Broadway Addition at the Northeast corner of Boren Avenue and University Street. For some unknown reason it has been marked by an earlier hand with a penciled “X” as has the kitty-corner kit at the northwest corner.  On lots 5 and 8, sits Margaret’s brother Orion Denny’s home, another Tudor.  Immediately below we join an illustrated clip on this neighbor.   North across University Street on Lot 9 of Block 115 rests the banker Backus’ brick home that we feature at the bottom of this little history.  
Like Margaret Denny’s home, her brother Orion Denny’s residence at 1204 Boren was designed by the architects Bebb and Mendel. They sat back-to-back on the east side of Boren Avenue between Seneca and University streets.

Both the featured photograph at the top and The Times halftone look to the northwest corner of Margaret Denny’s home.  Addressed at 1220 Boren Avenue, it rests on Lots 1 and 4 of Block 116 in Denny’s Broadway Addition – the southeast corner of University Street and Boren Avenue.  Arthur Denny, Margaret’s father and a Seattle patriarch, named the former street in the 1850s. He hoped to build a university – and did – in the early 1860s:  the University of Washington.  Boren Street was named for the family name of Mary Ann Denny and her brother Carson.  Arthur and Mary Ann Denny are most often described as the “Founders of Seattle” and their six children – younger daughter Margaret Lenora included – helped promote them as such. In 1901, two years after Arthur’s death, Mary Ann accompanied Margaret to their new First Hill home.  The industrious daughter, an astute business woman, at the time was collecting rent then from several renters, including The Seattle Times for the new plant it was building on Denny property downtown at Second Avenue and Union Street.

Margaret Lenora* Denny *namesake for the Seattle street.
A Times report from Nov. 2, 1930 on a tea scheduled for apartments in the Marlborough House.

Mother Mary Ann Denny died late in 1910.  The funeral was held on the first day of January 1911, here in their First Hill home.  Four years later the 68-year-old `Margaret Lenora Denny drowned in the Duwamish River with three others, after the chauffeured car they were riding in plunged into the river from the bridge at Allentown.

At the southwest corner of Boren and University, the Sunset Club was across Boren from Margaret Denny’s home.


Anything to add, amigos? Si  For his Edge Links we conspired to include 25 links that related to the neighborhood.  Twenty-sixth concludes the list not for any relevant to the Denny Home but for the sad stroke that recently closes Wallingford’s Guild 45 Theatre.

THEN: Looking east on University Street towards Ninth Avenue, ca. 1925, with the Normandie Apartments on the left.


The northeast corner of University Street and Boren Avenue, across University from the Denny Home on the southeast corner.  Note that this subject is a rough continuation of the one above it.

THEN: Beginning with the Reynolds, three hotels have taken tenancy in this ornate three-story brick block at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Built quickly in the winter of 1906-07, the Prince Rupert Hotel faced Boren Avenue from the third lot north of Pike Street. About fifty-five years later it was razed for the I-5 Freeway. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Built in the early twentieth century at the northeast corner of Jefferson Street and Boren Avenue, Bertha and Frank Gardner’s residence was large but not a mansion, as were many big homes on First Hill. (Courtesy Washington State Museum, Tacoma)

THEN: Looking north-northeast from a low knoll at the southwest corner of Seneca Street and Seventh Avenue, circa 1916. By 1925, a commercial automobile garage filled the vacant lot in the foreground. [Courtesy, Ron Edge]

THEN: Built in 1909-10 on one of First Hill’s steepest slopes, the dark brick Normandie Apartments' three wings, when seen from the sky, resemble a bird in flight. (Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Built in 1887, the Minor-Collins Home at the northeast corner of Minor Avenue and Cherry Street was one of the grandest and longest surviving pioneer mansions on First Hill. (Courtesy Historic Seattle)

THEN: First Hill’s distinguished Old Colony Apartments at 615 Boren Avenue, 1910.

THEN: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)

THEN: Of the three largest Seattle roofs – the Alki Point Natatorium, a grandstand section of the U.W.’s Denny Field, and the St. James Cathedral dome - that crashed under the weight of the “Northwest Blizzard” in February 1916, the last was the grandest and probably loudest. It fell “with a crashing roar that was heard many blocks distant.” (Courtesy Catholic Archdiocese.)

THEN: Completed in 1900, the Graham mansion on First Hill at the southwest corner of 9th Avenue and Columbia Street is getting some roof repairs in this 1937 photo looking south across Columbia Street. It was razed in the 1966 for a parking lot by its last owner and neighbor, the Catholic archdiocese.

THEN: At the northwest corner of Columbia Street and Boren Avenue, two of the more ordinary housing stock on First Hill in the 1890s. (Courtesy MOHAI)


THEN: An early view of Virginia Mason Hospital, which opened in the fall of 1920 at the northwest corner of Terry Avenue and Spring Street. In 1980 for its anniversary, the clinic-hospital could make the proud statement that it had “spanned sixty years and four city blocks.” Courtesy Lawton Gowey


THEN: The brand new N&K Packard dealership at Belmont and Pike in 1909. Thanks to both antique car expert Fred Cruger for identifying as Packards the cars on show here, and to collector Ron Edge for finding them listed at this corner in a 1909 Post-Intelligencer. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: This detail from the prolific local photographer Asahel Curtis’s photograph of the Smith/Rininger home at the northwest corner of Columbia Street and Summit Avenue dates from the early twentieth century when motorcars, rolling or parked, were still very rare on the streets of Seattle, including these on First Hill. (Courtesy, Historic Seattle)


THEN: Revelers pose on the Masonic Temple stage for “A Night in Old Alexandria,” the Seattle Fine Art Societies annual costume ball for 1921. (Pic courtesy of Arthur “Link” Lingenbrink)








One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Margaret Denny’s First Hill Home”

  1. There is a house that looks very similar to the Denny house that is still standing and is currently occupied on 6th Ave W and W.Lee St on Queen Ann hill. It encompasses and entire block.
    I would like to know the history of this house.

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